Conquering Imposter Syndrome
In the eight years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had many people tell me “You should write a book!” Until this year, I dismissed that idea fairly quickly. I love to write, but I really love writing on the internet. Short, tight essays and articles, where I get mostly instant feedback, are what fuels my passion. My writing wheelhouse exists between 500 and 1000 words, and when I thought about writing 75,000 words on one subject, my response has always been How? and Nope.
But this past spring, while scrolling Facebook, I came across a post written by Jen Hatmaker, promoting a writing and publishing class taught by the literary agent who took a chance on her years ago. This agent represents several of my favorite high profile authors, women whose careers and writing have influenced so much of my faith shift the past few years. I signed up, and the class had my mind spinning each week. The knowledge I gained about the publishing world left me both overwhelmed and excited.
In the months following the end of that class, I’ve worked on getting started on my own book. I’ve set my alarm for 4 am and stumbled bleary eyed out of bed and try to get out a few hundred words in an outline before the kids woke up for the day. I’ve written two 5,000 word chapters. I’ve kept writing on my blog, had a new website made, and sent my writing to a critique partner. I’ve been reading (or listening on audio) a book a week to immerse myself in really good writing. And in doing all this, I found myself more overwhelmed and discouraged than excited and optimistic.
As an Enneagram type 3, I value efficiency and success. I didn’t want to waste any more time (or sleep) typing words on my computer that weren’t going to lead to anything productive. I decided to reach out to the literary agent and hire her to coach me and help me organize my book ideas and set a reasonable writing schedule. I sent her my book idea outline and scheduled our coaching phone call.
My coaching phone call was this past week. In the hours before our scheduled call, I felt sick to my stomach and so, so nervous. The script running through my mind was You are wasting her time, You aren’t qualified to write on any of theses topics, You have no platform needed to write a book, Your writing has made people hate you, and You aren’t a real writer.
Yes, I have Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome makes me feel like a fraud, a fake, and like my dreams are bullshit. And it’s the first thing we talked about on the call.
She assured me that all writers suffer from Imposter Syndrome sometimes- it’s normal. And then she told me she’d searched and found my HuffPo articles, and she said, “You are a really good writer, and you have a lot of passion. You are in a really good place.” Then she told me this is exactly how Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey got started.
As long as I live, I’ll never forget her words. A person at the top of the publishing industry, who represents famous, best selling authors, told me that I’m a good writer. That should be the cure for my Imposter Syndrome, right? It certainly helps- a lot- but I still have this nagging feeling I’m not really qualified to do what I want to do. Sigh.
In the hour I talked to her, we concluded that I do not have a viable book idea yet. This is not because I can’t write or don’t have the passion, but because I’m still smack in the middle of my faith shift and I need to work on the tone of my writing, so as to encourage conversation rather than simply attracting readers who agree with me already.
So for now, I’m going to keep writing. I’ll keep submitting articles to major publications, blogging here, and working on tone. And hopefully someday, I’ll be ready to tackle a book. I will also keep trying to see my published work for what it is: real writing. I am a real writer.
Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? What has helped you conquer it?